Dismantling the SSEE won't cure the high level of illiteracy
Stabroek News
January 10, 2002

Dear Editor,

Guyana's major educational problem is the high level of illiteracy of school leavers. This is due to the large numbers of students who leave the primary school without having learnt to read or to calculate and who four years later 'graduate' from secondary school in the same state. Dismantling of the present SSEE won't correct this.

There has been no official release from the Ministry of Education about the 'dismantling of the SSEE'. What has been reported in Stabroek News seems to suggest that the Ministry proposes to introduce three mini SSEEs. We have been assured that "high achievers would still be placed in the traditional senior secondary schools based on their average performance over the assessment period".As stated, it seems that the intention is to identify primary school high achievers and to factor the results of the early assessments into a secondary school placement two or four years later. This will lead to increased parental pressure on the children, starting with the seven and eight-year olds and continuing during their remaining years in primary school.

Countrywide assessments at Prep B and Primary ll are definitely needed, but the objective ought to be to assess and state in generally understandable language the reading and calculation attainment of each student tested. Associated measures will include designing, implementing and monitoring strategies for upgrading the attainment of low achievers. The work will have to be undertaken in the schools as well as with the Ministry's Primary Education supervisory staff.

Guyana's slippage in literacy goes back to the late l970s. Ministry Jeffrey's proposal mirrors that of Education Minister Ms Cecilene Baird during the years l973-l974.

Her major concern was that help should be directed to the later developers and the slow learners in the primary school. Ms Baird's recommendation did not receive the support of her senior professional officers. The task of identifying such students and making arrangements for them to get the help they needed seemed to have frightened her officers.

I hope this Ministry of the 2lst century will not be daunted by its responsibility to ensure that all our children receive the help they need to make the most of their abilities. Every child's achievements counts.

Yours faithfully,

Olga Bone